Greek Dressing, with what Ina would call a “good” olive oil


I don’t know if you ever watch Barefoot Contessa or read any of Ina’s cookbooks, but she is always calling for a “good” something or other. Good chocolate, good olive oil, good peanut butter, even.  And well, I tend to agree with her. A dish is only as good as its ingredients, right? And when you are making something with simple and minimal ingredients (as I tend to do), it’s important that you use quality ingredients.

When it comes to olive oils for cooking, there are several I can use and have no qualms about. But for a dressing, or a drizzle, or something like chimichurri, it’s important to use a “good” olive oil, so that’s what I’m advocating for this dressing. I used an organic extra virgin olive oil by Gaea, which was great. I try to get Greek olive oils whenever I can find them, because I often prefer them.  If I don’t buy Greek olive oils (or have people bring them to me from Greece), I like Lucini, which is pretty readily found (at least for me), and I’d also recommend this Gaea oil, too.

And, I also would like to specify that you should use a “good” feta too (thanks for the reminder, Peter). This means, not the brick you find in the cheese section of the grocery store. You will probably have some kind of ethnic market around you that sells a better feta (for less money).  The one by me sells Bulgarian feta for $3.49/lb. and imported Greek feta for $6/lb. Do you know how much a pound of that not-so-good feta in the cheese case at the grocery store runs here? $12/lb.! Nonsense. If you don’t  have an ethnic grocery near by but have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods., both stores carry a Greek feta that’s creamier than the grocery kind, as well as a version actually sold in brine. They’re not quite as creamy and salty as delicious as the kind the old Greek dude at the ethnic deli will sell  you, but they’re pretty good.

Greek salads in the States are quite a bit different than they are in Greece. Most salads in Greece are “horiatiki” or village salads, and they don’t contain what seems to be the main ingredient in an American-Greek salad – iceberg lettuce. They are generally comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, red onion, kalamata olives, and sometimes green pepper or pepperoncini.  Seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and dried oregano, they are usually only drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and/or red wine vinegar.

Here in the States, most Greek salads have (a ton of) iceberg lettuce and are adorned with beets, pepperoncini, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and sometimes chickpeas. (And, according to a friend in FL, ham. WTF?)  They’re dressed with a pretty standard dressing, often creamier than a typical vinaigrette.

Now, my dad makes the best Greek dressing on the planet. If you want to truly understand how good it is, this will be the test: I absolutely love it, and it has mayonnaise in it. That’s right, my most despised condiment, something I find to be incredibly vile. But what it does is give the vinaigrette a little body and creaminess without making it over-the-top creamy.

Since I pretty much refuse to buy a jar of mayonnaise, I decided what would make this vinaigrette a little creamier would be the addition of some Greek yogurt. As a bonus, it’s healthier, too. This is not my dad’s recipe (though I think the next time I’m home, I will ask him to scale it down to a non-restaurant serving), but contains many of the same elements. I’ve said before that I prefer a more acidy dressing, so I use more vinegar than oil, which is not the standard. If  you want something more traditional vinaigrette, flip flop the amounts of vinegar and oil.

Oh, and I know I can’t get anything past  you, dear reader, so yes, this is two different salads (with the same dressing). What can I say? I like salad in the summer because heat makes me cranky so standing over a hot appliance for a long period of time makes me even crankier. Our salads had romaine, tomato, cucumber, feta, kalamata olives, & pickled beats. One day we also had green pepper. The other day, we had sunflower seeds. And of course, I  served the salads with some warm Greek-style pitas (which are really more like a flatbread, as they don’t have a pocket.

Greek Dressing

Makes about 2/3 cup
print Printer Friendly Recipe

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
1/3 cup red wine vinegar*
2 spoonfuls of Greek yogurt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil*
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the garlic, vinegar, yogurt and oregano until incorporated. Stream in the olive oil as you continue to whisk, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.  It’s best to let this sit for a little bit for the flavors to mingle before dressing your salad. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

*If you want a more traditional vinaigrette, use 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. I prefer a bit more acid in mine.

Greek Dressing, with what Ina would call a “good” olive oil

29 thoughts on “Greek Dressing, with what Ina would call a “good” olive oil

  1. I only recently discovered how much I love Greek yogurt, so I’m thrilled to see a salad dressing that uses it! I agree, in the summer a salad is so much more appealing as the temperatures increase.

    I’ll have to look for a place to get “good” feta… I can imagine the price is better (as you mention), but also that it will taste so much better, too!

  2. Elly you are so right. Simple cooking needs good ingredients and Greek cuisine is based on the good quality of products used. The dressing sounds delicious. Instead of using Greek yoghurt, I usually make the dressing with feta.

  3. I had a Feta lesson from Peter too…and I loved it, because that is how we all learn, right? The dressing is to die for and the salads….well, even in winter, those are pretty tempting!!

  4. Other than the constant addition of iceburg, the only odd ingredient I’ve seen here in New Brunswick would be radishes…and it was at a restaurant owned by a Greek. My dad does iceburg at his restaurant but everything else is pretty standard (kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber, feta). My aunt in Greece seems to like to add green peppers. At home my parents often use romaine, but sometimes they just do tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions…and I never liked tomatoes and cucumbers growing up…and you can’t just sit and eat onions…so as you can imagine I have mixed feelings when it comes to horiatiki salata.

    But the best thing in the world is to dip your bread into the juice at the bottom of the salad bowl. Hot damn is that stuff good!

    1. I made this dressing finally. I used mayo (no greek yogurt on hand).

      It is DELISH.

      I always double the dressing so we have something to dip bread into. Used 1 tsp ea salt and pepper (for the doubled recipe).

      I like that idea of adding a little anchovy.

      When I make greek salad I use a few untraditional ingredients:
      red onion
      green onion
      sweet peppers any color I have on hand
      those pickled pepper rings (the ones for subs) chopped,
      if no good tomatoes in season I use cherry or grape halved
      TONS of pitted kalamata olives ( I buy a big gallon jar at our local Greek food distributor in Baltimore)
      TONS of “good” feta (again from the Greek distributor – SO much cheaper to buy in bulk). I hate to say it but the Bulgarian is really good – so creamy.

      When hubby is working outside all day he loves to take a big thing of it and afterward he actually drinks the rest of the dressing. Works like Gatorade to refresh him. Will be interesing to see if he’ll want to drink a dressing that has mayo in it!

      Thanks so much for this! It really is good.

  5. Why do you dislike mayo so much? Or is just jarred mayo that you hate?

    Ina’s show this weekend was all about herbs. did you catch it? The only herb she does not grow is oregano, as she prefers the dry, which is in your father’s dressing. She thinks fresh oregano is too overpowering.

    She has the most enormous herb garden I have ever seen, and huge plants. Maybe she is selling herbs on the side? LOL

  6. Can you recommend a brand of greek style pita or better yet would you provide a recipe? LOVE YOUR BLOG!

    1. I wish I had a good recipe but I haven’t tried making one yet! Every time I try to find a pita recipe, they have pockets and I prefer the ones that are pocketless as they are more authentic. A flatbread or naan recipe may be a better bet. Sorry, I wish I could help more!

  7. looks good, glad i came across this. although i would add anchovies in the dressing. give it a little bit of a sea salty flavor.

  8. I know this is a really old post, but I despise mayo too. Also, I am planning on making Greek salad tonight with zucchini fritters and tzatziki. I make my salad the Greek way- No lettuce! I do however add red and yellow peppers in it I am going to dress my salad tonight with this dressing! I normally just to olive oil and red wine vinegar, but want to zazz it up
    By the way,I love your blog. IGreek food is my favorite ethnic food even though I am not Greek at all.

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